Advice

How to Budget Like a Freakin’ Boss

When I was younger, I was not so great at saying no to things that took up time and energy that I didn’t have or just didn’t want to give. I found myself struggling, exhausted, or flaking out on things I’d said I would do. As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned that my time is a zero-sum game. If I say yes to something, that means I might have to say no to something else. I can’t do it all.

It took me longer to see that money (for most of us) works the same way. Money has always stressed me out, regardless of how much I have saved up or coming in. I spent most of my adult life up to now carefully monitoring what was coming and what I was spending and keeping that all stored up in my head, which worked OK for me. In the last year, I’ve realized that keeping this all in my head has kept me afloat for sure. But it’s meant that money is always somewhere in the front of my mind. Since I was budgeting 24/7, every purchase seemed like I was taking away from something else and caused a little internal battle.

Realizing how much stress this was causing me took a while, and realizing that there were other options for living in a way that was money-conscious but not constantly nagging took even longer. I think I’ve finally figured out something that works for me and I want to share it, but there are a few caveats:

First, it’s no big revelation. People have been creating budgeting systems for years and there are only so many variations.

Second, this works for me right now, but your mileage may vary. This might not even be perfect for met yet and will totally be tweaked later too.

My Budget System: What’s Going Out

I love spreadsheets! Oh my god do I love spreadsheets. So I started my budget with a spreadsheet. I made a list of my monthly expenses in these categories: Rent, Phone, Electricity, Internet, Yoga/Gym, Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, Medical, Food, Student Loans, School, Medical, Shopping, Car Insurance, Gas/Car Maintenance. These categories will surely be different from person to person, but that might give you a headstart on yours. There are a few things I think are important here:

    • List out all of your subscriptions separately! You can set a certain amount for entertainment/TV/whatever, but having to write out each subscription service and what you pay for it makes you realize how much you are spending on each one and whether or not it’s worth it.
    • Of course some of these are variable. My electric bill in May is vastly different from December. I budget for the highest amount I have seen in the last year or so, that way I should be good no matter what.
    • “Food” is a broad one, and I did that intentionally. This includes what I expect to spend on groceries in a month and a little extra for going out a few times. I love both cooking and going out to eat, so putting these two together helps me balance that and save on both.
    • My biggest piece of advice here is to be realistic. I have a budget item for “shopping” that, for me, includes buying new clothes, gifts, whatever else comes up. If you try to pare down your expenses to the very barest necessities, it’s going to be hard to stick to. Sometimes you really have to do that, and that’s ok, but give yourself some room to treat yo’ self if you can. Tracking this monthly helps me to see that it’s OK to spend some money on not-necessarily-vital items. It also helps me see that I have to spread out my Tom Haverford moments.

The other half of my spreadsheet lists my income sources and what I make monthly from each one. This can be variable too, so I do my best to average. The difference between how much I need to spend and how much I make is what I expect to be putting into savings each month.

Paying the Bills

I wait until the end of the month and pay all my bills at once. This is a big deal for me. I used to jump at every chance to pay a little bit on a bill, but again, my new system is more holistic and less about micro-managing every single day and penny. I’ve found it’s much easier to keep track of what I need to pay when I do it all at once anyways. After I pay my bills, I put what I’ve got left into savings. If it’s drastically different from what I expected, I look into why and adjust my budget/income sources as necessary.

Stuff comes up in our lives. Cars break down, people get sick, pets get sick, holiday gifts need to be bought, and most things that come up cost money. Savings helps me with that. I try not to be hard on myself if I have to pull out some money or can’t save as much as I expected. But I am mindful of why it is happening and if it’s something I can handle better in the future.

This is in no way a sponsored post or anything like that, but I’m currently trying a new app called Clarity Money to get me outta the spreadsheets and into 2017. I like what I’m seeing so far, so the tools might change soon, but I think these principles will remain the same.

Over to you, yogis? How do you deal with budgeting and money stress? I’m dying to know! Tell me in the comments!

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7 Comments

  1. louise

    louise

    March 2, 2017 at 9:36 am

    I think this is UK only, but there’s an app made by the moneysavingexpert people called OnTrees that I find really helpful. You can set budgets on that and get an overview of your accounts. It has a couple of drawbacks though:
    You have to give it your online banking details (it pulls your data directly from your banks)
    You can’t edit the spending category names (but you can hide ones that don’t apply)
    If you have multiple accounts with one bank, you can’t hide certain ones (I have my current account and savings account with the same bank, and I’d rather not see my savings in my day-to-day balance)

    It’s been really good in helping me realise where my money goes though, and is the best budgeting app I’ve played with so far.

    1. Avatar

      Alex Edwards

      March 2, 2017 at 6:53 pm

      Neat! There are similar ones in the US (maybe they work elsewhere?) like Mint, but I really like being hands-on with the numbers. It makes me have to REALLY face up to reality and that works best for me, but apps are awesome too!

  2. Avatar

    Becky @ The Bex Factor

    March 2, 2017 at 11:13 am

    I’m a budget queen. I too made a spreadsheet for income and expenses. When I looked at home much was leftover once my expenses were covered, I determined reasonable amounts to put into savings and create auto-transfers so I don’t even have to think about putting money into those savings accounts. It just happens. Then I take out my monthly grocery allowance and spending money out in cash. It’s divided into four sections in my wallet. Groceries, entertainment (which includes eating out), personal spending, and my son’s spending. Once I’m out of cash, that’s it. It definitely helps me make wiser choices. ESPECIALLY grocery shopping because I used to just buy whatever and not care about prices and wondered why my grocery bills were always SO high for just 1.5 people.

    1. Avatar

      Alex Edwards

      March 2, 2017 at 6:54 pm

      This is such a great system too! I’ve seen people do the cash thing, but I haven’t tried it myself. I kinda love the Amazon points I get with my credit card (that I pay off every month!). Groceries can be the toughest to get down for me too – so many opportunities for impulse buys :-X

  3. Avatar

    Elizabeth

    March 6, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    I use YNAB (You Need a Budget) which is a glorified spreadsheet but makes it so easy to track all my accounts in one place and see exactly how much is going where. I started using it about 2 years ago and I have gotten a WAY better handle on my money as a result! I am naturally a spender so it’s been helpful for me to have the visual of what’s coming in and going out. Highly recommend it if anyone is looking for a way to budget – I even look forward to budgeting (which I realize is super strange)!

    1. Avatar

      Alex Edwards

      March 9, 2017 at 8:54 pm

      Yay, Elizabeth! I used YNAB for a bit too but ended up liking my own spreadsheet better. Of all the budgeting apps I’ve ever used or heard of, it’s my fave because it gets you more hands-on. I secretly look forward to budgeting too :p

  4. Pála Margrét

    Pála Margrét

    April 6, 2017 at 8:44 am

    I started using YNAB – you need a budget – in February and I love love love it! Recommend you try it out, and because I’m a student I got the first year for free ? (and as with you, not sponsored!)

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